THE statistics do not make for pretty reading – four games, four defeats and only kept off the bottom of the table by a side who started the season on minus 10 points.
But there were genuine reasons to be positive after Chester went down fighting to a talented Harriers team who were a whisker away from winning promotion to the Football League in April.
The Blues scored their first goal of the campaign, courtesy of Danny Harrison after Josh Dowling and Marvin Johnson had put last season’s Skrill Premier runners-up in command, and displayed the type of desire that was badly lacking against Woking one week earlier.
They also carried a greater threat up front and their inability to deal with set-pieces aside, they restricted their opponents to little until late on when the match became stretched.
Indeed the outcome remained in the balance until livewire substitute Joe Lolley struck with virtually the last kick of the game.
Chester manager Neil Young, whose side sit six points clear of basement boys Aldershot, said: “I can’t fault anybody out there today – they all put an absolute shift in.
“Yes there were errors but you’ve also to remember that these lads are nervous – you could tell that in the first 20 minutes.
“But there is plenty of encouragement and positives – and the fans get that.
“The support here today was fantastic and I’d like to think they’ve seen us improve.
“People may look at the final scoreline and think ‘Chester have been done again’ – but that is not the story of the game.”
Young was furious after the desperately disappointing defeat to 10-man Woking.
It came as no surprise, then, that he made major changes to his starting line-up.
The biggest casualty was captain George Horan. The centre-back had to settle for a spot on the bench – a ‘tactical’ decision – but there was no place in the matchday squad at all for Jason Jarrett, Craig Lindfield and Joe Heath.
Young later revealed that Jarrett and Marc Williams have been listed for loan.
Ashley Williams and Alex Titchiner were handed first starts of the season while Jordan Laidler, signed on the eve of the match on a month’s loan from Sunderland, was thrust straight into the action.
The new boy enjoyed an impressive debut, always looking to find space between the lines and helping negate the influence of Kidderminster’s deep-lying playmaker Lee Fowler.
Laidler was deployed at the tip of a midfield diamond and behind two out-and-out strikers in Titchiner and Gareth Seddon.
The adventurous formation made the Blues more of an attacking proposition and after a nervy start, they would have gone in front had it not been for good goalkeeping and poor finishing.
The pacy Titchiner went close when he collected a Nathan Turner cross and shifted the ball on to his left foot before drawing a sharp stop out of Danny Lewis.
Moments later Kay got in Titchiner’s way after Paul Linwood nodded a Laidler free kick down into the danger area.
But just when Chester were getting on top the defensive deficiency that has blighted their debut campaign in the non-league top flight reared its ugly head in the 32nd minute.
A mix-up between Ashley Williams and Kevin McIntyre led to a Kyle Storer corner, from which Gowling was given the time and space to thump a header past John Danby and into the top corner.
Undone once again by bad marking, the visitors needed to stay in the game until half-time.
Instead they fell further behind a minute into added-time as the ball broke to Callum Gittings in midfield and he slotted a pass in between Linwood and Kay for Johnson to poke the ball underneath John Danby and into the net.
But just when it seemed as if the shell-shocked Blues were going to head down the tunnel with their heads bowed, immediately they did something they had failed to do in any of their opening three fixtures – score.
Lewis Turner’s cross into the box was a good one and Harrison arched his header over Lewis and in off the post.
Buoyed after ending their 317-minute wait for a goal, Chester started the second half strongly.
Credit to the Harriers, however, they weathered the storm and continued to pose problems from dead-ball situations, Chey Dunkley somehow failing to head in another dangerous Storer delivery and Gowling going close to a second after the ball deflected into his path.
It was only when the Blues began to commit more and more men forward in search of an equaliser – Ben Mills, Jamie Reed and new loanee Aidan Chippendale were all introduced, with Reed forcing a save from Lewis – that the hosts began to create clear-cut opportunities.
And it was from their final one that Lolley made the points safe, the sub taking a lofted pass from Michael Gash and cutting inside to curl a left-footed shot past Danby and into the far corner.
Kidderminster: Lewis, L Vaughan, Dunkley, Gowling, Demetriou, Fowler (Jackman 77), Storer, Gittings, Malbon (Lolley 61), Gash, Johnson (Dance 61). Subs: N Vaughan, Byrne.
Goals: Gowling 32, Johnson 45, Lolley 90.
Chester: Danby, L Turner, Kay, Linwood, McIntyre, A Williams (Chippendale 87) N Turner, Harrison, Laidler (Reed 81), Titchiner, Seddon (Mills 73). Subs: Horan, Pugh.
Goal: Harrison 45.
Referee: Rob Whitton (Essex).
Attendance: 2,283 (396 away).